Diet and its effect on Autism

How may diet and nutrition benefit those with Autism and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)?
I see a considerable number of people who tell me they believe that diet is an issue and it affects their, or their children’s, autistic symptoms.  I do not think diet cures autism, but there is such a broad spectrum to Autistic conditions that it may be able to help many people and move them from being less functional, or less socially adept, to coping better with day to day lives.

There is published evidence that nutritional supplements can benefit some people who have autism, although, ideally, these supplements need to be governed by those who are well-read in the subject (as many parents now are) or under the supervision of a health practitioner.

There is published evidence that nutritional supplements can benefit some people who have autism, although, ideally, these supplements need to be governed by those who are well-read in the subject (as many parents now are) or under the supervision of a health practitioner.

As examples, there is an established link between poor methylation and autism. Vitamin B12 and folic acid (B9) seem to be beneficial because they enhance detoxification through the methylation process. Methionine, an amino acid, is also involved in the methylation process but too much may impair methylation. Care is needed in prescribing, therefore.
Essential fatty acids, particularly phosphotidyl choline and phosphotidyl serine, are also thought to help improve cognitive processes in people with autism because these are important to both neuron (nerve) structure and function.

These and many other supplements are all part of a therapeutic approach to autism which needs to be carefully calibrated and monitored. This is best done by a nutritionist or a doctor with a knowledge or an interest in Autism. It is not something an individual or parent may necessarily find easy, or effective, by simply going into a health food shop and picking supplements off the shelf. If you buy a multivitamin, you might be buying a product that has some effect – but not necessarily a good, safe or most effective one. Many practitioners have concerns that “pharmaceutical grade” nutrients (those made but not necessarily found in nature in the form on the pill) have isolated individual components that block receptors so that food versions may no longer be recognised or absorbed by the body.

Many practitioners have concerns that “pharmaceutical grade” nutrients (those made but not necessarily found in nature in the form on the pill) have isolated individual components that block receptors so that food versions may no longer be recognised or absorbed by the body.

Any supplement that is taken for anything can range from harmful, through being pointless, up to being beneficial. This does, however, depend on the source, the dosage and even when you take it in the day. Some need to be taken on an empty stomach and others taken with food. It is a complex matter perhaps best left to a health professional in the delicate matter of ASD.

GPs and specialists are unlikely to have been offered training in nutritional medicine, supplements and their potential usefulness. Most are therefore unlikely to prescribe supplements to patients who may benefit. GPs in the UK are not taught nutritional therapy as part of conventional training, but some do go on courses. Dieticians tend to be trained in the use of food from the conventional point of view of supporting regular medicines (basic requirements, energy intake etc) and not as part of a treatment process. Nutritionists, in my experience, are often trained at dealing with illnesses, including ADS issues, and how supplements and diet can affect symptoms and outcomes.

Dr Rajendra Sharma

Dr Rajendra Sharma

Dr Rajendra Sharma is a fully qualified doctor registered with the GMC.He has for 30 years, since leaving the NHS, run a private practice in Integrated Medicine (IM) in London.
Dr Rajendra Sharma

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